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11 Tips to Hit Deadlines in Your Freelance Business

Nov 16, 2020
(updated: Feb 14, 2023)
Max 5 min read

A major part of any freelance business is keeping clients happy. A surefire way of doing this is by producing high-quality work and always meeting deadlines,

Your reputation as a freelancer depends on how you are to work with, and most importantly, do you deliver work on time.

If you create great work and you’re awesome to collaborate with, but your promised deliverable is a week late, chances are the client won’t be back.

Committing and hitting deadlines is the backbone of any freelancer-client relationship, so we’ve come up with 11 tips for ensuring you always meet deadlines and keep your clients happy.

1. Understand the Importance of Deadlines

Deadlines aren’t an optional part of the job; they are written into most contracts. If you agree to a specific deliverable and deadline, you are contractually obligated to hit that deadline. 

If you think about deadlines like “I’ll get them done when I can,” you’re already in the wrong mindset. You have to be committed to delivering an amazing project, and on-time! Again, the “on-time” part is crucial. 

If you’re the best freelancer out there and your work is far superior to everyone else, but you don’t hit deadlines, you’re not going to be in business for long. Make your deadlines a priority.

2. Always Communicate with Your Client

Life happens! Sometimes unforeseen circumstances will arise, which will impact a deadline. Clients understand that you are a real person and have a life, but communicate with a client as soon as something unpredictable pops up that may affect the timeliness of your work.

Even if you have an inkling that you might miss an upcoming deadline or will need more time, reach out immediately. Over-communicating is always better than under-communicating. 

Never put yourself in a situation where it’s the day before the deadline, and you’re just reaching out to let your client know that the deadline will be missed. Consistent communication will help avoid ever being in a situation like this.

3. Set “Task Due Dates” Rather than A Single Due Date

Many times this is one of those freelancer mistakes that leads to missing a deadline. Don’t just set one single due date; break out your projects into specific tasks and give each one of those tasks a clear due date. 

Here’s the most important part - the “task due date” cannot be the same due date as the deliverable. Give yourself ample time to account for any unpredictable circumstances that may arise. We recommend a padding of at least 1-2 weeks.

Scheduling out “task due dates” is one of the best ways of avoiding missed deadlines. Sectioning out a project into several different tasks with multiple due dates helps ensure each part of the project gets done long before the actual due date.

4. Estimate the Amount of Time Each Project Will Take

This can be tricky when first starting out freelancing, but being as specific as possible with how much time each project will take is important. Break out the project into tasks and estimate how much time each one of those tasks will realistically take.

Accurately estimating project completion time will help you come up with a reasonable deadline that can feasibly be hit.

We encourage using time-tracking software, like Indy, for tracking all your working hours and exactly how much time each project takes, so you can give a better estimate for the project timeline and deadline.

5. Time Management is Key

Managing your time and not procrastinating is so important. This is obviously much easier said than done. But once a freelance project is received, get started!

Even if the deadline is weeks away, it’s better approaching the project with urgency in the beginning, so you’re not a few days away from the deadline and panicking about having nothing done.

If you always set “task due dates” and a project roadmap right when a project is received, you will be in much better shape, because an action plan will be in place even if you do procrastinate. 

6. Don’t Overcommit Yourself

As a freelancer, taking on as many projects and clients as possible will help hit your bottom line and expand your business. We get it! 

But if by doing so, you can’t meet all your deadlines, then be honest with yourself. Don’t commit all at once to several projects with similar deadlines. 

Ensure you’re producing the highest quality work for clients by giving each client and project the time it deserves. 

This will be nearly impossible if you accept 5 different projects with their deadlines all on the same day. 

7. Work Backward When Building a Project Timeline

Many of your projects won’t be completed in one day. This is expected and is absolutely fine, as long as you have a plan in place for ensuring each part gets done on time. To do this, try working backward!

List out every single task that needs completing for your deliverable, and we mean every one. Even if it’s the smallest task that will only take a few minutes, still list it out. 

Once you’ve completed your list of tasks, assign each task an estimate of time. 

After you’ve done this, you can now give each task a due date and put it on your calendar as you come up with a timeline for your project. Remember: if your client is in a different time zone, account for this when setting your deadlines.

8. Keep Organized

With several different clients and projects, losing track of deadlines and what needs completing in a given day is easy. Combat this by coming up with an organization system that works for you.

You could use the tasks feature in Indy to give each task a specific deadline or you could add your deadlines to your phone calendar so they’re always visible and in reach.

Whatever system you use, just be sure it works for you and keeps everything organized, so no deadline is ever missed.

9. Prioritize Your Projects

Remember you are your own boss and the project management falls on your shoulders. With that comes the responsibility of staying on top of deadlines and projects. 

You are the only one who can hold yourself accountable. Take stock of all your projects, the tasks that need to be completed for each one and when their deadline is. 

Once you’ve done this, rank them in a priority list from most important/ time-sensitive to least important. We know every client is important, but depending on task due dates, some clients or projects will take precedence over others for the time being.

Now that you have a “master list,” work down that list until every project is completed on time. 

10. Save Your Work

This might be a no-brainer for you. But we’ve all been in the final hour of getting a project done only to realize our work didn’t save.

This is every freelancer’s greatest nightmare! Prevent this from happening by always, always saving your work. Even if you think you already pushed save, push save again.

You never want to finish a project and then find yourself starting from scratch because none of your work saved.

11. Do Whatever it Takes to Get It Done 

Sometimes even the best pre-planned efforts will fail, and it will be the night before a deadline, and the project will still not be completed. This is when you go into “do whatever needs to be done” mode. 

Remember, hitting deadlines is one of the most important jobs of a freelancer. If you promised you’d have something done by a certain day, but it looks like it’s not going to happen, make it happen!

Stay up late, give up some of your personal time, heck, enlist the help of others if need be. 

Hopefully, it doesn’t get to this point, but if it does, make sure you drop everything else to be sure that project gets done on time!

Get started today!

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